Autophobia

Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PsyD, CRNP, ACRN, CPH on October 12, 2017Written by Erica Cirino on October 12, 2017

What is autophobia?

Autophobia, or monophobia, is the fear of being alone or lonely. Being alone, even in a usually comforting place like home, can result in severe anxiety for people with this condition. People with autophobia feel they need another person or other people around in order to feel safe.

Even when a person with autophobia knows they are physically safe, they may live in fear of:

  • burglars
  • strangers
  • being unloved
  • being unwanted
  • coming down with a sudden medical problem
  • hearing unexpected or unexplained noises

What are the symptoms of autophobia?

A person will develop symptoms of the disorder when they get into a situation in which they could end up alone. Symptoms of autophobia include:

  • obsessively worrying about being alone
  • experiencing fears of what could happen while being alone
  • feeling detached from your body when alone
  • experiencing shaking, sweating, chest pain, dizziness, heart palpitations, hyperventilation, and nausea when alone or in a situation where you could soon become alone
  • a feeling of extreme terror when alone or in a situation where you could soon become alone
  • an overwhelming desire to flee when you’re alone
  • anxiety from anticipating loneliness

What causes autophobia?

Autophobia is an irrational anxiety that develops when a person fears they may end up alone. While there may not be an actual threat of being alone, the person will still be unable to control their symptoms.

The person may be unable to function normally until they no longer feel alone. When they are alone, they may feel a desperate need to end their solitude as soon as they can.

How is autophobia diagnosed?

Autophobia is a phobia, or fear-based disorder. If you suspect you have autophobia, you should visit your general practitioner. They can refer you to a mental healthcare specialist.

When you see a mental health specialist they will perform a psychological evaluation. They will ask for your medical history to see if a physical problem is affecting your mental health. After that they will perform a psychological evaluation. This involves asking lots of questions about your daily activities and feelings.

Autophobia is considered a situational phobia. This means that the situation of being alone or loneliness causes extreme distress. To be diagnosed with autophobia, your fear of being alone causes you so much anxiety that it interferes with your daily routine.

In some cases, people have more than one phobia at a time. It’s possible that you’re dealing with more than one phobia, which could be making your autophobia even more challenging to cope with. Talk to your doctor about any other fears you have.

How is autophobia treated?

People with specific phobias like autophobia are often treated with psychotherapy. The most common types are exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy treats an avoidance behavior that has developed over time. The goal is for this treatment to improve your quality of life so that your phobias no longer limit what you’re capable of doing in your daily life.

Your doctor will re-expose you to the source of your phobia over and over again. They will do this first in a controlled setting where you feel safe, and eventually will move to a real-life situation.

For autophobia, your therapist will work with you toward increasing your tolerance of being left alone for increasing periods of time. It could begin as walking out of your therapist’s office and standing a few yards away for a short period. The distance and time can be increased as you make progress each day.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

In CBT, your therapist will expose you to your phobia. They’ll also use other techniques that help you learn how to confront and cope with being alone in a more constructive way. They will work with you to examine your pattern of thinking around your phobia.

CBT can give you a sense of confidence when confronting your autophobia. This will help you feel much less overwhelmed the next time you have to confront it.

Medications

In most cases, psychotherapy alone is successful in treating autophobia. But sometimes medication can be useful in helping reduce a person’s symptoms so that they can recover through psychotherapy. Your mental healthcare professional may prescribe medications at the beginning of your treatment. They may also instruct you to use it in specific or infrequent short-term situations.

Some commonly used medications for people with autophobia include:

  • Beta blockers: Drugs that block stimulation caused by adrenaline in the body. This is a chemical that becomes present when a person is anxious.
  • Sedatives: Benzodiazepine sedatives can help you relax by minimizing the amount of anxiety you feel. These drugs should be used cautiously because they can be addictive. This is especially true in people with a history of drug or alcohol dependence.

What’s the outlook for autophobia?

“Being alone” has a different meaning for different people. Some people fear being without a specific person, or sometimes any person, in close proximity. And the need for proximity varies from person to person; some people with autophobia feel a need to be in the same room as another person, but for others being in the same house or building is OK.

For people with autophobia, the need to be with someone else gets in the way of them leading a happy, productive life because they’re constantly living in fear of being alone.

If you think you have the symptoms of autophobia, rest assured that there is help out there for you. If you stick to your treatment plan, recovery is possible. Schedule a visit with your primary care doctor or a mental healthcare professional. With the right combination of treatments, you’ll better learn to manage and understand your reactions, feelings, and thoughts.

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